Prepping for the Zone -
Every hit you make is on target and you return every shot with great
intensity. You are on fire. You are playing in the zone. The question
is why can't we play that way all the time? Mental preparations can
help you reach the zone more frequently and eventually at will. Common
comments that players have stated about the zone were "I saw the
ball early because it seemed to go in slow motion", " my
footwork, running and swings felt effortless" or "I just
couldn't miss." The first part of getting in the zone is to play
relaxed, confident and focused. Playing like this allows for your mind
to jump into auto-pilot and you don't over think but just let your
body play. When you are in the zone write down how it felt and how
you got there so you can learn to bring in those same conditions another
day. Remember it's a sweet game when the mind is hushed and the body hums.
Too Many Racquets - Too Little Time
Choosing a racquetball racquet can be confusing and intimidating. You
go to the local sports store and find Ektelon, Wilson, E-Force, Pro Kennex,
Head and a host of other racquet manufacturers. Which one do you choose?
First you need to understand that there isn't one racquet that is good
for everyone. Choosing a racquet depends on your playing style, level
and personal preference. Generally more advanced players spend more on
racquets due to the materials used, technology and craftsmanship. If
you are just starting out it is unnecessary to purchase the top of the
line racquets at $300. If you are a beginner try not to spend over $50.00.
The next step is determining your playing style. If you tend to attack
shots and have a hard style then you are a power player. You should look
for a racquet with a high power rating, a racquet that will hit the ball
hardest with the least effort. If you rely more on shot placement and
precision you are a control player. A control player should look for
more control, flex and enhanced stability of the racquet frame. An oversize
frame is the size of choice for most players allowing for a larger sweet
spot. With today's technology racquets are now being manufactured with
both the power and control player in mind. The best way to look for a
racquet is to test them out. Many sports stores will lend you a racquet
for a minimal fee to take it home and hit with. This is well worth it.
You can also find some of the best deals on the Internet.
Center Court is the Place to Be
When you look at the floor of a racquetball court you should see two
worn out spots. One spot is the where return of serve happens and second
is center court position. Position is very important to the game of racquetball
and there is no more desirable place to be than center court. Center
court is a large oval area approximately 10-15 ft. wide and 8-10 feet
deep located behind the service box stretching a couple feet over the
receiving line. Being in this position allows a player to maintain control
of the game and is the best location for shot coverage. You should get
into the habit of moving into center court after each shot if possible.
Being in Center court gives you the best vantage point to cover the left
and right side lanes and gives you an equal chance to cover all corners
of the court. It is easier to play in front of your opponent rather than
behind, forcing your opponent to play around you. Not being in center
court gives your opponent more offensive choices. Remember that center
court is the place to be.
The Back Wall is Your Friend
One great thing about the game of racquetball is during a rally the ball
may pass you but you still have a chance to keep it in play. In many
instances it is to your benefit to play a ball off the back wall rather
than take a shot coming straight towards you. Playing the ball off the
back wall regularly is imperative to improving your racquetball game.
It initially may be difficult to resist the instinct to hit every ball
that comes towards you but a good general rule is if it's high let it
fly. Playing a shot off the back wall allows you some time to get into
good position to return a hit for maximum control. You can also generate
more power because the ball is moving towards the front wall and your
shot is adding to the inertia of the ball. Sometimes playing the ball
off the back wall can save you precious energy. Rather than chase the
ball around the court let the ball come back to you. It's important to
learn how to use every wall in a racquetball court. Take some time to
make the back wall your friend.
Quick Feet - Quick Feet - Quick Feet
One reason racquetball is attractive to people is that it's fast, fun
and a great work out. Because of the quick pace of the game we need to
get rid of the cement leg blues. Common symptoms of cement leg blues
are relying on balls to come back to you, always reaching for a shot,
giving up on a potential shot and setting up for a shot too soon. Quick
feet can remedy all these cement leg symptoms. You need to be light on
your feet to be able to adjust to the ball and quick enough that you
go for just about everything. Try to keep the weight of your body on
the front balls of your feet. Playing flat footed is a detriment to speed.
Never stand still in the court, being in continual motion enables a player
to react more quickly to an opponent's shots. Keeping your movements
small and controlled helps maintain your balance. Lastly, try to stay
on the ground or have your feet always close to the ground. When a player
jumps too high it takes considerable time to gain the footing to move
in any direction. Keep playing and keep moving.
Slow and Steady
The slow but effective lob serve is often overlooked in intermediate/advanced
racquetball. The dedication to master the drive serve seems to take over
and the lob serve is forgotten. A well-placed lob serve is a quick and
easy way to get some easy points. The lob serve does not require the
energy generated to hit a strong drive serve keeping you fresh and rested.
Your goal when serving a lob serve is to push your opponent as far back
into the corner forcing her/him to shoot the ball on its way down. Not
only is it difficult to hit a dying ball but add a well-placed serve
grazing the sidewall creates another obstacle. Lob serves should either
bounce in front of the receiving line so your opponent can not cut it
off in mid air or the ball should bounce closer to the back wall forcing
your opponent to move back. Keep your opponent guessing by serving variations
of the lob serve. The lob serve can be hit to the forehand or backhand
and at varying heights (low, medium and high). Take the time to practice
and become skilled with these serves or you may end up feeding easy set-ups
to your opponents.
Diving- Looks Cool
Diving is a great way to keep the ball in play. It should only be used
as a last resort rather than as a regular offensive weapon. Diving requires
a lot of energy, puts you out of position and gives you no base of power
to hit your shot. Many times a shot off a dive is an easy set up for
an opponent. Dive sparingly and ask yourself if you will have a reasonable
chance to get up to hit your opponent's return. Some things to keep in
mind when diving are to try not to land on your hands. Applying that
much force to your hand can seriously injure a wrist. Instead try to
slide on your chest or absorb that impact with a thicker part of your
body. Try to hit mostly ceiling shots when diving. It is easier to get
under the ball and it gives you time to recover to center court. Maintain
good balance when attempting to execute a diving offensive shot. For
safety sake don't dive towards the walls and remember the rally is not
over so you have to get up as quickly as possible.
It's not Cheating to Take a Peek
One common mistake in racquetball is not watching your opponent during
the rally. Because of the fast and dynamic character of the game any
advantage to move into proper position for a shot is welcome. Often times
the game is played purely in a reactive nature not allowing for a strong
offense. When you are in a rally with an opponent try to get in the habit
of taking a quick peek over the shoulder to see what your opponent is
doing. Often time's hints can be given by looking at the position of
your opponent's feet. The position of the feet will often dictate the
direction of the shot (left or right side, down the line or off the sidewall).
You should also focus on the position of their body in relation to their
swing. By taking a quick peek you can get a jump on your shot by recognizing
the body position of your opponent. You will start to recognize small
details in your competitor's body position that will give you a hint
of what is to come. Some examples are for a ceiling shot (looking up),
kill shot (position down low and racquet moving parallel to the floor)
or cross-court pass shot (angled sideways and position fairly erect).
Get Better by Playing the Angles
Many distinctions can be made between touring racquetball professionals
and serious/recreational club players. One major difference is the usage
of angles in a players shot selection. Although a slamming roll out looks
hotter than any shot around, you have to ask how often does that happen?
In order to reach the next level, players have to incorporate angles
in their shots. Pinch, reverse pinch, splat, reverse splat, z shots and
around the wall shots are all angle shots that are high percentage, both
offensive and defensive. Hitting the ball low and hard every time causes
unneeded risks. Rather than kill the ball low, hard and straight in,
try hitting the sidewall which will take off ball speed causing the ball
to hit the front wall slowly and making for a tough return. Learn to
hit angles by adjusting the swing rather than aiming for a spot on the
wall. Hitting the ball sooner or later than usual in your stroke will
cause the ball to go towards the sidewall. Focusing on the swing rather
than the spot on the wall allows for maximum power on the shot. Play
with the 3-7 feet along the sidewall closest to the front. Generally,
splat shots are hit further back. Do not focus on hitting the ball extra
hard or low but rather learn the angles and the shots will come.
I'm stronger, faster and more skillful but she beat me
Part one of a two part series on mental toughness.
Mental toughness is 50% to 90% of the game. How many times have you been
at the top of your game hitting everything right and feeling that your
ready for the pro circuit, and the next day you can't seem to get the
ball to hit the front wall? Racquetball requires work to acquire the
skills to be a strong player, and so does being mentally solid. This
is the first part on a two part series on mental toughness.
Make a racquetball action plan
Set reasonable and positive goals for your racquetball game. Playing
racquetball without an action plan is like building a house without
blue prints. You should set both long and short-term goals. A positive
short-term goal may be, "I will hit most balls above my waist
to the ceiling today". Focus on this goal and try to see it through.
You should also focus on long term goals like moving up a division
during tournament play or playing a division higher in the club league.
Be realistic and detailed when making your plan and write it down on
paper to solidify your commitment. This is your first step to peak
performance through mental toughness.
Playing in the Zone -
Part two of a two part series on mental toughness.
This is the second part of the series on mental toughness. We will look
at the importance of focusing in the moment and playing in the zone.
Play one point at a time. We have all been in situations where we continue
to focus on the horrible shot made seven points ago. How often do we
count the win too early and find ourselves struggling to finish the game?
Have you been so turned off by a bad call that it affected how you played
the rest of the match? You should try not to be concerned about the last
point or the end of the game until you get there. Racquetball requires
complete concentration on every point. Anything that breaks that concentration
will affect your play. Each point should be looked upon as a new fresh
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